Precision Farming Australia Style

Kurt Lawton

Competing with neighboring farms and other US farmers has long been a stimulus to help farmers adopt tools of precision agriculture that improve efficiency.

But in our global economy, it’s always wise to track what other farmers around the globe are doing. To this end, check out how this 43-year-old Australian farmer is using precision farming tools for efficiency, as reported in a story by WAtoday.com.au.

The giant red tractor edges along steadily at 9.6 km/h — on auto steer — and the air seeder it tows behind drops seeds in freshly made furrows, a few millimetres above fertiliser that has just gone in.

The tractor drives in a straight line for the length of the paddock, 2.2 kilometres, before Mr Luehman touches a red stop sign on the screen, disengages the auto steer and negotiates a bumpy U-turn over dozens of furrows. Powerful headlights light up the long red bonnet and the flat Mallee paddock ahead. Similar headlights are doing the same turn in the paddock over the fence, while behind there is only soft moonlight. The scene is repeated in many Mallee paddocks in this district tonight, because it’s prime cropping time.

It is 7.30 on Thursday, 12½ hours after Mr Luehman arrived in “Harry’s Paddock” to start spraying weeds. He’s got another three hours of sowing before knocking off. It’s a long day but the time for sowing is ideal; the farm received up to 27 millimetres of rain in late April and he wants to capitalise on the conditions.

Five years ago he overhauled his approach to farming to become more efficient. He stopped ploughing his paddocks before sowing and moved to direct drill sowing, ripped out all the internal fences to enlarge his paddocks, sold all his livestock and changed his sowing timetable. The changes mean he has cut his tractor hours by 1200 per year, his fertiliser use by 60 tonnes and his diesel consumption.

Education, Farmers, International, wheat